… Appoint Ambode as chairman, Umahi, Dickson co-chairmen
By Chinelo Obogo
The Southern Governors Forum (SGF) has thrown its weight behind calls for devolution of powers and true federalism. This was part of the resolutions taken at the end of its summit at the State House, Alausa, Ikeja Lagos, yesterday. The governors also reiterated their commitment to the growth of Nigeria. Speaking at the end of the meeting, Lagos State Governor, Akinwumi Ambode, said the forum has resolved to push for devolution of powers and collaborate with each other, to push for the development of the southern part of Nigeria. The communique issued at the end of the meeting states: “We reiterate our belief in true federalism and devolution of powers. We are committed to collaborating with one another, for the growth and development of our economies. “We also emphasise the need for effective linkage of good infrastructure within southern Nigeria and we are also committed to a united and indivisible nation.” Earlier, Ambode urged the governors to urgently demand and push for devolution of powers in the on-going 1999 Constitution amendment. He pleaded with those present to collaborate with their respective Houses of Assembly and ensure that devolution of powers is achieved and passed into law in the on-going constitution amendment. “There is a lot to be done about true federalism, an issue that requires urgent, meticulous and proactive attention by this forum. No less disturbing is the failure to undertake the periodic review of the revenue allocation formula, as provided for in the constitution, to reflect evolving realities. “All too often, states are disparaged for always carrying begging bowls to Abuja, in quest of handouts from the Federal Government. This is a function of our present constitution that burdens the federal government with responsibilities that falls within the province of the states. “The productivity and revenue-generating capacities of most states are thus stifled, turning them into no better than street beggar-states, incapable of meeting routine obligations of paying workers’ salaries and pensions, without federal support.” “The SGF resolution is coming at the most appropriate time as the Senate and House of Representatives are harmonising provisions in the proposed amendment of the 1999 constitution. “It is important for this forum to comprehensively look at the proposed amendments, with a view to working with our respective Houses of Assembly, to ensure coordinated response on our part that will strengthen the practise of democracy, federalism and institutionalisation of the rule of law. “In our deliberations, particularly on the pressing need for devolution of powers, our pre-occupation must not be with having a weak centre and strong states or vice versa, rather, we want a centre which will function on the basis of democratic principles and safeguard the unity and integrity of the nation,” Ambode said. The forum subsequently appointed Ambode as chairman, while Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi and Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa will serve as co-chairmen. The SGF was formed by former governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and had its first meeting in Lagos, in 2001. The last meeting was held in 2005. Besides Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State, who was absent and didn’t send a representative, 13 southern governors were physically present, while Governors Willie Obiano of Anambra, Ben Ayade of Cross River and Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta sent representatives. Those present were Governors Ayo Fayose (Ekiti), Abiola Ajimobi (Oyo), Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun), Godwin Obaseki (Edo), Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia), Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu), Rauf Aregbesola (Osun), Nyesom Wike (Rivers),Seriake Dickson (Bayelsa), Dave Umahi (Ebonyi), Emmanuel Udom (Akwa Ibom) and Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo). No reason was given for Okorocha’s absence. The forum subsequently announced that its next meeting will take place in Rivers State.